I have been thinking a lot lately about religion and the role that it plays in the world and in people’s lives.
This year I have found a lot of fellowship with other people in the community where I was living by attending the United Methodist Church. The people there are so friendly and accepting of me, even though I am a gay man who is obviously a bit eccentric in their eyes. But they have accepted me with open hands. The Pastor is a beautiful person. She is upbeat and gives sermons about coming together as a nation, loving each other, being respectful of other people’s lifestyles and beliefs, and finding the spiritual path back to God that works for them. So I have found a group of people who are aligned with a specific religion who are a wonderful congregation to have fellowship with.
Do I believe all of the doctrines of the religion that I have been attending? The honest answer is, probably not. I still hope that they are true though. When I was a Mormon I was taught that faith was knowledge of things that are true, but that you cannot see. Can I say that I have knowledge that there is a God or that we will have life after death? I can’t. I do not have absolute proof.
I think, however that the Mormon concept of “faith”, is perhaps too ridged and narrow. In fact, it might be completely backwards. If I define faith as a hope for things that I cannot see, but hope to be true, then I could say that I do have faith. I really hope that there is life after death. I am doubtful, but I don’t rule it out. I feel the same way about God. I have no firsthand knowledge of God. God may be just a myth that man made up to give us a hope for a better future after this life. But even if there is no God, I can still hope and have faith that there is a God. If there is no God and I believe in one, then I believe in something that is not true. But it still remains as a belief. It is still faith. I am than having faith in something that is not true. Basically, it is the basis of what superstition is.
Is superstition bad? Is belief in things that might not be true a bad thing? Perhaps the things, which some people believe in, do exist.
Superstition, belief, and religion are sometimes good, and sometimes very bad.
I will start out by demonstrating how faith and religion can be bad. The first problem that can happen is when a group of people believe in something that is going to be harmful to another group of people. White supremacists believe that their race is better than others. Even if this belief were proven to be a true fact (which it has not), it is extremely a dangerous one. It places one person above another. It causes tension and hatred between different races of people. It rips apart society and has been the author of wars, death, and destruction for thousands of years of our history. Another example is most religions position on homosexuality. In the Mormon Church, the suicide rate of gay youth is disturbing indeed.
Another case where religion can do more damage than good is when people of one belief band together to try and force that belief on other groups of people. Many wars have been fought because of religion. Some religions become hate groups that terrorize other groups of people. There should be no place in the world for these types of groups.
Yet another problem that can arise because of religion is beliefs and superstitions that keep the believers so far removed from reality that they are not thinking logically and clearly for themselves. If someone believes that all truth only flows down through their prophet or cult leader, then any information that comes from the outside, can be considered false, no matter how logical or true it may be. The leader of the group decides what the people are to believe as truth. Forget science, history, and logic. It all flows from the top. People under such religious regimes will never have a chance to grow and mature mentally. Being numbed and lulled into a false sense of reality is not the path to a happy and balanced life.
With what I have written so far, it would appear that the conclusion is that religion is bad. Not so, says I. Some religion is bad. Some religion is good. A lot has to do with how the individual approaches it. I go to church and find fellowship with the community. They help each other and they reach out and help others. There is nothing bad about that. If someone believes something that is not harmful to anyone else, and it makes that person feel happier and connected with their friends, family, or personal mindset, then what is wrong with that?...Even if it is all just superstition. If it truly makes them happy and it works for them (and the religion is not hateful to other groups), then I think that it is a good thing for that person. Some people have such horrible lives, because of health or poverty, that a little bit of hope, even if it is just superstition, can make them feel better. And, you never know, some of those things that we cannot see, that we believe in, just might turn out to be true after all.